The Complete Prayer

11 October 2006: Wednesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 11, 1-4: Our Father

It was a regular custom for a Rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they might habitually use. The Gospel today is Luke’s version of the Our Father, which is shorter than Matthew’s, but it has all the elements of prayer.

The first part: it begins with reverence. The characteristic address of a Christian to God is our Father --- far different from God or Lord. For a Christian, we acknowledge that God is Father, and therefore our relationship to Him is that of a child. For a Christian, we are approaching not a God who is unwilling to give us gifts, but a Father who delights to supply his children’s needs. For a Christian, the name does not mean the name in which a person is merely called. The name means the whole character of the person as it is revealed and known to us.

The second part: the prayer is complete by itself because it covers all of life. First, it covers our present need: Give us this day our daily bread. This goes back to the experience of the Israelites when they were served by God with manna in the desert. We are asked to live a day at a time. Second, it covers the past. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. When we pray we acknowledge our sinfulness before God. We acknowledge the wrongs we have committed in the past, and those people who have hurt us. And finally, it covers the future. And lead us not into temptation. We ask the Lord’s help to overcome temptations in the future, so that we can be ever so faithful to him.

Someone has said that if we pray at the beginning of the day, prayer will awaken in us holy desires which will lead us to the right path, to make the right decisions, and do the right things. And if prayer is said at the end of the day, we summarize all the graces God has given, and all we ought to pray for.

As we pray the Our Father we thus remember our relationship with God is personal, he is not just a God who is far from us, but our Father who loves us. And as we pray the Our Father we also remember that the prayer completes our life: our present, our past and our future.

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